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Home Sections Literature and Fourth Estate New Jesters, Pretenders and "Turkeys" Contribute to the Decline of Fil-Am Journalism
New Jesters, Pretenders and "Turkeys" Contribute to the Decline of Fil-Am Journalism PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Literature and Fourth Estate
Tuesday, 20 November 2007 09:25

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The decline in the quality of community newspapers and the coverage of the news in San Diego's Filipino community is hastened by the arrival of a new set of jesters and seasoned pretenders. It isn't serious reporting that they endeavor to get into; rather they are out to hype themselves and get a kick at everyone's expense. They seem intent to mock the community with their utter lack of basic knowledge.

DECLINE OF COMMUNITY JOURNALISM

The Unlettered Soul

                 Could it be worth thy wondrous pains

                 To publish to the world thy lack of brains?

                                                    -- Charles Churchill

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

Editor's Notes: Mr. Marquez is a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.

SAN DIEGO - I intended to write an article about Thanksgiving but the thought refused to leave my mind. I also wanted to be kind-hearted in the spirit of the season. I likewise meant to be understanding of my fellowmen, knowing my frailties.

As I began to think about it, however, it occurred to me that the only profession I care about all these many years is under assault, not from left- or right-wing idealogues but from those who have made a living of pretense.

During the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the practice of journalism was such a threat to his rule that he had to padlock the entire media and deigned another, which was more submissive, friendlier.

Some colleagues grudgingly caved in for personal and economic reasons but a lot more bit the bullet of resistance and carried on their practice, knowing their lives and their families' could be snuffed out in an instant.

Journalism prospered despite Marcos, thanks to a cadre of devoted journalists who wouldn't be caged, threatened or intimidated. There were those who suffered torture and death; still, journalism went on and on, kept alive by those who truly believe in its noble mission.

In the current context in the Philippines, journalists are being hounded through a combination of extra-judicial means (killings) and legal sanctions like filing of criminal libel suits. Despite those, the love for the written word remains undiminished.

Hundreds of men and women practice journalism not so much for monetary gain as for a quixotic vision of a better system of representation in government and the elimination of labyrinthine hurdles that disadvantaged the masses.

Many journalists believe they have an all-important role to play in the scheme of things. Governments also share that belief. In the United States, for example, that viewpoint is enshrined in the Constitution in what is commonly referred to as the First Amendment.

It's a guarantee of unfettered freedom of expression, of worship, etc. to enable the governed to arrive at the truth and make their decisions based on what they learn from others in the arena of public discussion.

Could it be worth thy wondrous pains to publish to the world thy lack of brains? -- Charles Churchill

In capable and competent hands, the practice of journalism is of immense value to the people in general and to the community in particular. Conversely, it is to their detriment when the ignoramus and the ineffectual combined to produce a kind of reading material that purports to serve the community.

It is said that the exercise of freedom carries responsibility. That is most true specially in the field of journalism. Responsibility there is a weighty issue that requires a sober, balancing act; responsibility to the readers, to the sources of information and to the need of the moment.

San Diego's Filipino community is currently experiencing a boom in the number of publications. However, before anybody reacts with surprise and amusement, I dare say it is by no means an indication that the ranks of journalists have multiplied as well.

In this age of the internet, online journals and personal blogs, I wonder why print journalism -- the community journalism genre that I practice presently -- has become so attractive to quite a number of people.

Most mainstream newspapers complain about losing readers and advertisers who have shifted their attention to the web. Less conspicuous papers just fold up, hardly able to sustain their operations.

But it's quite the opposite in the Filipino community. There's a proliferation of papers that hardly qualify as newspapers or magazines except in appearance. Content? What content? We're better off reading flyers and other information kit direct from their sources rather than seeing them mangled in these publications.

What's bringing about this kind of audacity to engage in community newspapering by a few who have neither the education nor the talent to write basic essay, let alone the news in its simplest?

I feel so embarrassed for those who have toiled and sacrificed in schools to equip themselves with the tools and use those tools to complement their talent to write the news in theaters of war, in Godforsaken places in the Philippines and elsewhere with little or no regard for their own safety and survival.

That's enterprise at its best, the kind that produces articles worthy of a Pulitzer prize. But in the Filipino community here, it seems enough to have an inordinate interest in being called a publisher, editor or reporter to have a paper going.

I believe that there's a mistaken notion that once a paper is published, those behind it automatically becomes journalists and writers, thus easily elevating their poor selves to a notch higher than rumor-mongers and community gossipers.

Business people who tried hard to get into journalism by engaging in what is popularly called "cut-and-paste journalism" is better off than this new entrants who don't have a minimum of understanding of what a newspaper is and should be.

"Cut-and-paste journalists" at least do not pretend to write; they just lift the articles from other newspapers and put them on their own. But I have very little sympathy for them, too. What they do is unlawful, which is to steal intellectual property.

"That unletter'd small knowing soul," laments Shakespeare

The new entrants are the worst. They call themselves publishers, editors, staff writers, etc. but could hardly compose a decent article. One publisher/staff writer, for example, wrote a long wishy-washy account of the recent fires. I'm still trying to figure out if this writer perished, got lost or was trampled by the swell of evacuees.

She wrote, and I repeat it here the way it came out in that paper: "In the 2007 Witchcreek and Harris fire, I must commend the Union Tribune Newspaper for all the newsworthy information for evacuees was available for many days to come. It was the only major newspaper outlet that gave all the detailed reporting regarding the 2007 fire. However, I do have to say many other issues may have been overlooked and buried base upon the community leaders from all walks of life conveying vocally that unfair treatment of certain nationalities was uncalled for."

Go figure that out. There's more but I'm not re-printing them. I don't think it's even worth mentioning the paper's name. I got a yellowed copy by accident near a trash bin as I was dumping rubbish from the car.

It's a sad day for journalism. In one swoop, the bigger newspaper, the Los Angeles Times which devoted at least six pages for its extensive coverage, was reduced to nothing by this simple expedient of a chicken dung.

Everyone who saw the paper (not the Union Tribune and certainly not the LA Times) and read the article couldn't help but break into laughter . . . delirious laughter, that is. Well, as it is said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

"That unletter'd small knowing soul," laments Shakespeare.

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS - Commentary
Issue No. 91 / News Without Fear or Favor /

. . . . . A community service of San Diego's Philippine Village Voice (PhilVoiceNews@aol.com or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public. . . . . .



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Last Updated on Saturday, 24 November 2007 10:59
 

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